✍️ Appalachia holds a special place in Brandon Dennison’s heart and mind. He grew up in Ona, a small town in West Virginia, where people are connected to the landscape and live modestly and within their means. He’s also witnessed the poverty that his town and many others in the area are grappling with.
He grew up during a time when coal was a dominant cultural force in southern West Virginia—when, beyond economics or politics, coal and working in the mines was the local identity.
As the world navigates the climate crisis, he sees the need for his home state to transition from dirty fossil fuels like coal to renewable energy. And instead of seeing this change as a threat, he sees it as an opportunity for the region to diversify and become less reliant on a single industry.
Brandon started Coalfield Development to offer a path for people in West Virginia to find work and grow personally during this moment of transition. His organization provides people with a living wage for 33 hours a week of paid work in the green sector, and enrolls them in six hours a week of community college classes so they can earn an associate’s degree. On top of that, three hours each week are also dedicated to a personal development mentorship program.
Through this work, Brandon and his team have trained more than 1,200 people and started more than 50 businesses—and they’re just getting started.
Appalachia is full of wisdom, courage, and history, and people who know how to move the region forward. While some outsiders might see the region as backwards, Brandon sees his home as a place of possibility.